11/09/2010DEAR ABBY: I read your advice to "Getting Grief in Grants Pass, Ore.," (Sept. 11), whose father was reading her cell phone messages. You called his supervision "heavy-handed" and suggested she discuss it with him. While I applaud your suggestion to have a talk with her father, please reconsider the characterization that he was heavy-handed.
As a parent and high school assistant principal, I have seen too often the dangers of "sexting" and other illicit communications. Today's smart phone tells us all sorts of things that we as parents need to know. It also has connections to social networking and applications that allow teenagers to blindly send their phone numbers to anonymous users and have conversations.
The world has changed with this technology, and the attention we pay as parents must change with it. I strongly urge the parents at my school to check their children's phones and computers regularly. I suggest to parents to start doing it when their children are young and explain that it is part of their job as a parent. -- DAVE MILLER, NEW YORK
DEAR DAVE: Thank you for writing and reminding me that kids today face many challenges that had never been an issue for them in past generations. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: The number of teens and children who engage in inappropriate sexting and texting is shocking. These behaviors can be evidence of sexual exploitation, harassment, bullying and teen dating violence. The results of this teenage behavior can be devastating and have lifetime consequences.
Kids sometimes are afraid to go to parents or other responsible adults to seek help when they need it; often kids may not even know they are in trouble or exposing themselves to danger by their behavior. How long do you think it takes a "sext" between a girl and her boyfriend to make it to a child porn website?
A cell phone is a computer, and parents are responsible for ensuring the safety of their children and protecting them from predators and others who might harm them.
If "Grief" is not engaging in inappropriate behavior, she shouldn't be embarrassed if her parents read the text messages. Abby, please use your column to help educate children, teens and their parents that a text/sext lasts a lifetime. -- PATRICIA DAILEY LEWIS, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DEAR ABBY: As a crime prevention officer, I regularly encourage parents to check a child's cell phone for bullying and sexting, most of which a child won't share with a parent. Especially if the child is the one who is using the phone to bully others, she certainly won't share her pictures with her parents.
Most children are unaware that state laws have not changed, and children who send pornographic pictures of themselves to others can be charged with distributing child pornography and may have to register as a sexual predator for the rest of their lives. Kudos to "Grief's" father for protecting his child not only from herself, but ensuring she is not hurting others! -- CHILD ADVOCATE IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR ABBY: Once young people enter the work force, their e-mail, use of company phones and profiles on social sites will be monitored by their employers. There are consequences for living in a digital world, and our young people need to understand that.
I do not agree with her father telling her if she doesn't want him to see something, she should delete it. Please don't encourage children to lie. It won't lead to anything good down the road. For young men and women who think this is a good idea, remember that nothing deleted is ever truly gone -- it can be retrieved.
Whether it's online, on a computer or a cell phone, act with decorum, use common sense, and you'll never need to worry about getting in trouble for your behavior. -- MOTHER OF TEENS IN SHARON, PA.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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